Ethnic Media Coalition Demands Parliamentary Access, Journalistic Safeguards

By Moe Myint 17 February 2016

MRAUK U, ARAKAN STATE — Ethnic media organizations discussed access to regional parliaments, future government funding and the protection of journalists at Burma News International’s (BNI) 4th Ethnic Media Conference this week in Arakan State.

BNI invited organizations from across the country to the ancient Arakan city of Mrauk U from February 14 to 16. About 280 representatives from various civil society organizations, political parties and media outlets participated in the conference.

After three days of discussions, the conference culminated with the release of a five-point statement addressing future financial assistance, the advancement of women in ethnic media, and a demand to the Myanmar Press Council (MPC) and the government to enact laws safeguarding journalists.

Nai Ka Sauh Mon, co-executive director of BNI, said that Burma’s incoming government must ensure guaranteed access to information in the regional parliaments.

“As far as I know, in some regions, the small ethnic media houses were not allowed to attend the state legislature,” said Nai Ka Sauh Mon, adding that ethnic media groups’ journalists often face Burma Army threats when they contact government officials to verify the news.

Small ethnic media houses are also facing financial challenges, and conference participants broached the topic of future support from Burma’s government. Some attendees expressed a willingness to receive such aid; the majority of organizations voted in favour of government assistance if it would not interfere with independent editorial policies of the media houses.

But, according to Khine Mrat Kyaw, a member of BNI’s board of directors, a decision on the issue has not yet been made.

Nai Ka Sauh Mon acknowledged that BNI will need to make “a policy for collaboration with the government.”

The Irrawaddy previously reported that the Ministry of Information had offered to provide financial support to ethnic media groups; BNI’s co-executive director, Nan Paw Gay, pointed out that member organizations had never received such funds.